Good morning from sunny Peoria, Arizona. It’s supposed to be a little warm the next few days. I hope everyone’s brackets are as busted as mine. Thank you, Iowa State, thank you.
The Mariners made another round of cuts today with 11 players being removed from big-league camp. Most of these were somewhat expected, particularly for the position players. That part of the Mariners’ 25-man roster has basically been in place since spring training started. There were no position battles. And once the team acquired Rickie Weeks and he showed he was capable of playing the outfield, the opportunity for other outfielders was pretty much gone. Here’s a look at the cuts.
Optioned to AAA TACOMA (6):
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Left-handed Pitchers (1): Lucas Luetge
Catchers (1): John Hicks
Infielders (2): Ketel Marte, Jesus Montero
Outfielders (2): James Jones, Stefen Romero
Re-Assigned to Minor League Camp (5):
Right-handed Pitcher (1): Justin Germano
Left-Handed Pitchers (1): Rafael Perez
Infielder (2): D.J. Peterson, Patrick Kivlehan
Outfielder (1): Franklin Gutierrez
From a roster standpoint, the race for the second left-handed reliever has been whittled down with Lucas Luetge and Rafael Perez being cut from camp. That leaves David Rollins, Tyler Olson and Joe Saunders still competing for that spot. Luetge had an ok spring, but he wasn’t as good as Rollins or Olson. Back to back bad outings against the Indians and Rockies really hurt his chances. Perez wasn’t very good. He allowed six runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings pitched.
“Listen, I’ve said I’d like to have two lefties, but it doesn’t mean I’m locked in to having two lefties,” McClendon said. “I think everything is still open from that perspective.”
About a week ago, McClendon had said that he felt that there was a pitcher capable of handling that spot in the group competing for the job. Has that changed?
“I don’t remember answering that question, I misremembered,” he said laughing. “No, I haven’t changed my mind on that. They’ve continued to be impressive and throw the ball well. We’ll see what happens.”
Jesus Montero and Franklin Gutierrez were both nice stories coming into camp. But neither were destined to make the team. Montero lost 40-plus pounds in the offseason and looks like a different person. But he also needs to become a different player on the field. There are still things he needs to work on with his swing and becoming consistent with his approach. And his defense at first base is improved, but still a work in progress.
“He’s just got to play,” McClendon said. “The at-bats weren’t here. One thing I told him, the competition to play in Triple A is going to be tough. You have to go compete. He’s there to compete for at-bats. I think he’s prepared to do that.”
Gutierrez knew he was not going to make the team after missing last season while dealing with health issues. Those issues have cost him this spring with a groin issues. He hasn’t played in a game since March 7. When he signed his minor-league deal, he understood that he would likely start the season in Class AAA Tacoma.
“It’s quite simple,” McClendon said. “He hasn’t been able to get out on the field. And that playing time is not there for him anymore. The opportunity is there at the Triple A level and we’ll see if he can get over there and get back on the field and compete.”
For Mariners prospects like D.J. Peterson, Patrick Kivlehan and Ketel Marte, they knew that making the team would be a long shot. But they got to perform in front of the big-league staff, which is important. Peterson homered in his first at-bat this spring. But there were some struggles along the way. He hit .161 (5-for-31) with the homer and three RBI. Kivlehan hit .350 (7-for-20) with a double, a homer and four RBI. After some early struggles in the field, Marte settled in and hit .304 (7-for-23) with a double and triple. The assumption is that all three end up at Class AAA Tacoma. But the Rainiers roster could be crowded early on.
“I like them all,” McClendon said. “I think they all grew up a little in this camp. One thing I want all those young players to take out of this camps is knowing that they have the ability to compete at this level. We want them walking away from this camp feeling good about what they accomplished here. I think, all in all, that we did that. I think for all of them it was a very successful camp.”
*** Taijuan Walker was pretty solid last night, working his fourth scoreless start of the spring.
Walker threw some outstanding curveballs in that game. There were a few that his release point was off, but he snapped off a few others that were knee-buckling. His curveball isn’t typical of someone with his power arm. It’s slower and doesn’t have a power break to it. But it’s an important pitch because it changes eye level for hitters.
“All of last year I always said I didn’t like his curveball, I don’t like it,” McClendon said. “I looked up and (opponents are) hitting like .067 or something — maybe I do like it. I guess it’s just not a traditional type of curveball for a power guy. Used to those power guys cranking that curveball. But yeah it works. It’s a weapon and I think if he uses it properly its going to be okay for him.’’
Walker pitched himself into a minor jam last night in the second inning, giving up a single, hitting a batter and then walking another batter to load the bases. He had lost command with his fastball and pitching coach Rick Waits went out there and told him to try one of his offspeed pitches.
“The one thing we tried to impress upon on him last night is you’ve got four quality pitches — use them all,” McClendon said. “Don’t start getting into a pattern here, especially against real good fastball-hitting teams. They are going to take advantage of them and I think he finally got it string mixing in the changeup and the curveball more and that got him back in the counts and that’s what they are there to do. Maybe a light went on for him a little bit.’’
McClendon got on catcher Jesus Sucre about recognizing that issues and going away from the pattern. To be fair, Walker did also shake off Sucre a couple times as well. But Sucre needs to also take command of the situation. It’s something that Zunino does really well.
“Uh, I’m not sure if he wants to lean on it or if he just falls into that pattern and doesn’t realize what he’s doing from time to time and that’s where your catcher comes in,” McClendon said of Walker’s reliance on the fastball at times. “I probably chastised Sucre more than I did him because in my opinion, I was a catcher, your responsibility is to run the game and make sure you are serving your pitcher to the best of your ability and I said, ‘you are not doing it — make him use all of his pitches.’ And they got together and finally got it figured out and settled down and did pretty good. I don’t know that Walker won’t shake off Zunino. But I think Zunino will go out and say you need to do this or do that. Sucre has the right to do that as well. Any catcher has the right to do that.”
Rickie Weeks was ill and vomiting and dehydrated on Friday. He will stay in camp today and get 10 at-bats on the minor league games. Dustin Ackley will do that in the coming days.
McClendon said he hopes to have each of his players have 60 at-bats going into the season.